Thursday, April 28, 2011

Search Engine Monopolies: zagourepagoure

On the topic of search results, one of today's hits to my blog came from someone searching "zagourepagoure" on Bing. While my blog cannot tell you if R, Joseph Hoffmann is sexy, it is the only result for "zagourepagoure" on Bing and the only website on Google (although the latter index three books mentioning it.)

So, what is zagourepagoure? As far as we can tell, it is gibberish from a Greek Magical papyri:

Master angels
and good, rid
Dias, whom
Sophia bore, 
of the fever
gripping him,
on this
present day,
this very hour,
now, now quick-
ly, quickly.

Suppl. Mag 1.11

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

John Byron and The Myth of the Church's Golden Age

Over at The Biblical World Dr John Byron has a post on the Myth of the Church's Golden Age. Briefly noting a few of the controversies in the early Church he concludes:
The fact is, there never was a golden age of the church. The New Testament church was just as messed up as the 21st century church. And I take that as an encouragement rather than a rebuke from the past. The early church was full of greedy, bickering, sinful people who did not get along with each other, did not listen to their leaders and even split off from one another when disagreements became too heated. And sometimes their leaders said bad things about each other. Let's not forget that all of Paul's opponents were not non-believers, but followers of Jesus who happened to disagree with the apostle. Not unlike what we experience today. 
To all those attacking disputes within modern day churches: they are simply being true to their aims in restoring the church of the NT.

Cf. Craig L. Blomberg, "The New Testament Definition of Heresy (or when do Jesus and the Apostles really get mad?)", JETS (2002) 45/1 59-71

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scripture of the Early Church (Quote of the Day)

Ronald E. Heine writes:
"The Christians of the first century and the first half of the second had no question that the Old Testament was their Scripture. As the apostolic writings began to make their appearance, they were held in high regard. This was especially true of the Gospels. The Old Testament, however, continued to hold the undisputed position of Scripture in the minds of the Christians. Gradually, the Gospels appear to have been elevated to a status of equal authority with the Old Testament in Christian worship because they contained the words of Jesus. Nevertheless, it was the Old Testament that gave significance to the story of Jesus in the minds of the early Christians, and they continued to turn to it both to define and to justify their faith in him...

The Old Testament had a tremendous influence on the making of the early Christian mind; it was Scripture for the earliest Christians even before the Gospels were considered to be Scripture. According to the accounts given in the New Testament, the Old Testament was the earliest means for telling the story of Jesus. When we Christians think of returning to the sources of our faith, this earliest Christian Bible must head the list of those sources of we will misunderstand and misrepresent our origins."
 Ronald E. Heine, Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church: Exploring the Formation of Early Christian Thought (Evangelical Ressourcement: Ancient Sources for the Church's Future). (Baker Academic, 2007). 45, 46.

OT in the Early Gentile Church

These are just some quick notes from an email exchange with a friend regarding  her belief that the early gentile Church had no use of the Old Testament. Noting the search terms that get people here, this post might be useful! While NT scholars and historians use the NT to reconstruct earliest Christianity as best we can, the early church writings remind us that the OT was the scripture of the first Christians for at least 100 or so years.
Early church writers and theologians often commented on the Old Testament as "sacred scripture" and Christian communities which were most likely predominately gentile preserved the Old Testament (we have quite a few 2nd and 3rd century fragments; a 1st century Psalms manuscript is probably the earliest of Christian provenance.) Our earliest Bibles (e.g. Codex Sinaiticus) included the OT and they continue to do today.

In 2 Timothy 3:16 the author exhorts his audience to continue in the practice they have learnt from the beginning:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." 2 Tim 3:14-17 (ESV)

Clement of Rome refers to the Old Testament as "scripture"  and “sacred scripture” and uses it as the  source for much of his theology and teaching. A few random examples from his Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Clement) from the end of the first century:
  • He uses Psalms and Job to explain his theology of resurrection (26)
  • At 28 he states that God sees all things, quoting Psalm 139:7-10
  • At 45 he gives a high theology of the Old Testament exhorting the Corinthians to, "Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit."
  • At 53 he tells us that the Corinthians he is writing to "understand well the Sacred scriptures." He quotes and paraphrases Exodus 32 and Deuteronomy 9.
In the latter half of the 2nd century, Justin Martyr recounts an engagement with a Jew named Trypho. They discuss the Old Testament, issues of the 'New Covenant' (Jeremiah 31:31-32/Dialogue 11), the nature of the law and ritual before Moses, etc. Justin wrote:

For these words have neither been prepared by me, nor embellished by the art of man; but David sung them, Isaiah preached them, Zechariah proclaimed them, and Moses wrote them. Are you acquainted with them, Trypho? They are contained in your Scriptures, or rather not yours, but ours. For we believe them; but you, though you read them, do not catch the spirit that is in them.(Dialogue 29)

We also know that Greek and Latin speaking Christians learnt Hebrew in order to properly understand the Old Testament. It should be noted that most Jews and Christians of the time thought this was unnecessary as it was believed that the Septuagint Greek  translation was an authoritative translation.[1]  Origen in the third century learnt Hebrew to study the OT indetail. We have surviving copies of his homilies on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. We also know that the Syriac translation of the OT known as the Peshitta was used by gentile Christians such as Aphraat and Ephrem.
If Luke was in fact a gentile his intimate knowledge of the Septuagint is noteworthy. As there is much I have not read of the early Church Fathers I can only say so much.

[1] Philo, Life of Moses 2.37-40; Letter of Aristeas; Josephus, Antiquities 12; Irenaus, Against Heresies;  Justin Martyr, First Apology, etc.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Christ is Risen!

The first Christians understood that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures". But this is not the end of the story. The creed goes on that Jesus "was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." Today, Christians worldwide (in both East and Western churches) willl be celebrating the resurrection of Christ, proclaiming that Christ is risen!

The Easter sermon of John Chrysostom

Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!

Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.

To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!

Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.

Isaiah foretold this when he said,
"You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.

O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!

Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Corinth – Paul, People and Politics (May 14, 2011)

What: Corinth – Paul, People and Politics (Society for the Study of Early Christianity Conference 2011)
Where: Macquarie University, X5B Theatre 1
When: Saturday 14 May, 2011

"In Paul’s letters to the Corinthians we see an early Christian society dealing with factionalism arising from varied interpretations of the Christian message. At the same time, Christianity was trying to define itself within the context of a cosmopolitan Roman city. Who were the main players in Corinth during Paul’s mission there?
What role did politics play in the early Christian church?" Speakers will include Dr Paul Barnett, Professor Larry Welborn, Dr Bruce Winter and more.

The event will also include the launch of  The Content and Setting of the Gospel Tradition  edited by Professor Alanna Nobbs of Macquarie University and Dr Mark Harding of the Australian College of Theology

More details here.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Craig Keener, The Gospels in Light of Ancient Biographies and School Traditions

Professor Craig Keener will be a presenting his paper The gospels in light of Ancient Biographies and School Traditions at Macquarie University next week.

Tuesday 12th of April, 7:05pm
Museum of Ancient Cultures X5B 321, Macquarie University
$5 members/$7 non-members

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do It Yourself: Metal Codex Edition

With Easter just around the corner the time is ripe for new discoveries challenging the history of Christianity as we know it. If you want to keep this age old tradition alive we have some handy hints for you. This week we will we be showing you how to make your very own metallic tablet.

Before you get started ensure you have all the necessary materials (pictured).

The first step is to outline various shapes on cardboard and cut them out. A variety of shapes and symbols can be used. Favourites include:
  • Crosses
  • Palm Trees
  • Crocodiles
  • Alexander the Great. If you are unable to locate an ancient engraving of Alexander, you may find him on selected Greek Drachma coins.
You are not limited to Christian icons. To give an air of authenticity, I will also be using a Pegasus. How about spice it up with a Buddha?

Step two involves transferring these images to foil and creating a border. Metal coins are relatively easy and you can rub the image on with your hands. Cardboard outlines are generally harder, and you may use a sponge so you do not break the foil. To create the frame, I used a chain necklace.

I suggest getting a feel with a practice version, and playing around with it for some time. For example, I tried having Alexander the Great with Queen Elizabeth II (picture here). We would expect Alexander's face to be on a Christian text, but why would Queen Elizabeth II be on it? Silly.

The third step is quite simple, and involves attaching the foil (with imprints) onto cardboard. I wrapped the foil around the cardboard and used a clear sticky tape to finish off the attachment. By this stage your metallic Christian artifact should be close to completion.

The final step will require the addition of text. For an early  Christian theme I suggest Greek although others have had some success combining it with Hebrew. If you do not know what to write, why not visit your local museum and copy a text? Write the text with the felt pen, then wash off the ink. Do not be worried if you do not know the script, most letters look the same so just write them how you see it.  For this version I have taken a text from some third century letter. If you can figure out what letter it is I will send you an Amazon giftcard I have no use with (I think it's $10.50).

If you really want to have some fun, hide it outside and pretend to find it while a journalist is around.
Should a collector be interested I will be posting this item on Ebay.